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Charity adapts to show how football can help with home schooling

PUBLISHED: 14:00 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:39 03 April 2020

Norwich City defender Christoph Zimmermann speaking to youngsters at a previous Community Sports Foundation event at Carrow Park Picture: Sonya Duncan

Norwich City defender Christoph Zimmermann speaking to youngsters at a previous Community Sports Foundation event at Carrow Park Picture: Sonya Duncan

Using football to help with home schooling and keeping in contact with people at risk of isolation have been part of the response which has left Community Sports Foundation chiefs bursting with pride.

Community Sports Foundation chief executive Ian Thornton talking to an Ormiston Venture Academy pupil, where CSF has a hub 

Picture: James BassCommunity Sports Foundation chief executive Ian Thornton talking to an Ormiston Venture Academy pupil, where CSF has a hub Picture: James Bass

Like all charities during the coronavirus pandemic’s social restrictions, Norwich City Football Club’s official charity partner has been faced with a host of challenges, including their highly valued schemes going through drastic changes and fund-raising being seriously inhibited.

CSF helps 38,000 people a year in our region and on a weekly basis coach 1,400 young footballers, 6,000 children through schools programmes and also help around 200 children and adults with disabilities.

Chief executive Ian Thornton said: “The first thing from us is that we activated our business continuity plan, so we knew who we had to contact first and we had a stepped process to go through. Our first thoughts are always with our participants, who our vulnerable groups are, who relies on our services and who needs help.

“So the team have worked extremely hard to make contact with all of our participants, from walking football to Extra Time (for over-55s), to families of participants with disabilities, that was our first priority.

“The second was managing the current programme of activity in place. We had a number of programmes taking place in our football department, including tours to Europe, football provision inside and outside of the county and a number of holiday courses coming up as well, when parents rely on us for child-care.

“It’s complex but the first thoughts are the health and safety of our participants and the welfare of our staff, nothing is more important than that.

The Extra Time group for over-55s is one of the regular services offered by CSF Picture: Community Sports FoundationThe Extra Time group for over-55s is one of the regular services offered by CSF Picture: Community Sports Foundation

“Managing all that in an order, when the whole world is going through a major challenge, is a bit tough - but something that we’re quite prepared to address.”

Working alongside players and staff of Norwich City to call older supporters to check on their well-being, CSF staff were also calling around their Extra Time members, of which they have 85 registered, seeing around 40 every week for activities to combat isolation for the over-55s.

Extra Time coach Pete Brown has created some brain teasers and light exercises for over-55s, which are available to anyone on the CSF website, with Mr Thornton adding: “We are targeting the club’s season ticket list and we have for what we call our vulnerable list, in terms of social isolation. So I spoke to a participant called Brian who is based out in Gorleston and he very much appreciated the contact and the care.

“From our point of view it’s nice to have that contact just to check that they are okay and we will continue to do that, so if they need anything we’ll go and help them if we can and for some it’s just someone to talk to, most of the time about football.”

MORE: Canaries keeping in contact with supporters

Among a host of changes to provides access to usual services for people at home the CSF staff launched a Stay At Home app on their website, built in just three days, featuring activities including challenges, skills videos and quizzes.

CSF's Summer Cup is one of the many football events organised by the charity Picture: Community Sports FoundationCSF's Summer Cup is one of the many football events organised by the charity Picture: Community Sports Foundation

They are also encouraging youngsters and parents to use PLPrimaryStars.com as a great resource for home education, using Premier League teams and footballers as the subjects, including the Canaries.

“It’s a fantastic resource that uses the Premier League and its players for things like maths and spelling, my son was Sergio Aguero trying to score penalties by understanding fractions,” Mr Thornton explained.

“One of the challenges that schools have with young kids is of holding a pencil and maintaining their focus but nine times out of 10, if it’s about football, they’ll write about it.

“So we’re trying to give resources that are fun, engaging and there’s plenty to come as our staff have plenty of ideas to engage the fan-base, as well as the participants in our programmes.”

MORE: Canaries pledge £200,000 to help those affected by the global pandemic

CSF are hopeful that those kinds of resources being offered on their websites can help fill the void temporarily both for service users and parents grappling with how to home school successfully.

Mr Thornton concluded: “Part of my job for the last 20 years has been as a coach educator, so my job is to teach the coaches how to coach, and one of the challenges we have is teaching them to understand the game.

“The modern generation understand the 4-4-2 versus the 4-3-3 formation because they’re playing football games on their computer every night, so they are thinking about strategy, tactics and technology, these are good skills to learn and an engaging way to learn them.

“So while parents may think they spend too much time playing Fifa, it does really teach them the game, geography and maths, with working out finances and things.

“The other challenge we have had is that some parents think that with home schooling, they have to be the teacher when they’re not qualified teachers - I’m going to struggle to teach my children grammar or fractions!

“Their role in the short term is to keep them engaged with a multitude of skills, There might be some arts, there might be some technology, some drawing, some maths but it’s about utilising the resources to take the pressure off themselves.”

For more details about the services being offered by CSF, or to support the charity with a donation, head to communitysportsfoundation.org.uk.

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